COP26 is the 26th meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, taking place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November. COP26 will bring together 197 countries to agree how the world will tackle climate change and limit global warming to no more than 1.5C. This is the most important COP meeting to date, because with the world already at 1.2C of warming, we are now very short on time to decarbonise the whole of our societies, and governments’ current pledges for greenhouse gas reductions are falling far short of what is needed – in fact, right now we are on track for at least 3C of warming by the end of the century.
The aim of COP26 is for international governments to agree how they will each make the cuts in carbon that are needed to transition to net zero emissions by 2050. Developed countries such as the UK need to make larger carbon savings, while developing countries need help to grow sustainably, including financial assistance from developed economies. Agreeing the collective path forward is probably the biggest political challenge ever undertaken – but not doing so puts us and the planet on a collision course for climate catastrophe.
2C of warming would mean ‘widespread and severe impacts on people and nature. A third of the world’s population would be regularly exposed to severe heat, leading to health problems and more heat-related deaths. Almost all warm water coral reefs would be destroyed, and the Arctic sea ice would melt entirely at least one summer per decade. We cannot rule out the possibility that irreversible loss of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic could be triggered, leading to several metres of sea level rise over centuries to come. At 1.5C the impacts would be serious, but less severe. There would be lower risks of food and water shortages, and fewer species at risk of extinction. Threats to human health from air pollution, disease, malnutrition and exposure to extreme heat would also be lower. That is why every fraction of a degree of warming matters’ (UK government COP26 explained FAQ).
As well as the negotiations taking place amongst world leaders, COP also hosts talks and events from NGOs, charities, and campaigners. Expect to see lots of news coverage the next two weeks, both on what world leaders are saying – or what they are failing to say – and how campaigners are encouraging our leaders to be bold in taking the big steps that need to be taken to limit warming to no more than 1.5C.
At Sussex, we are aiming to become a net zero university by 2035. Read more about our sustainability strategy and plans to become the greenest university in the UK here.
Are you a Sussex Psychology student? We have 3 Green Reps in the School of Psychology who are working with faculty and Psychology staff to make our teaching, research, and buildings more sustainable: Naomi Goldblatt (undergraduate & masters), Alaa Aldoh (PhD) and Harry Lewis (PhD). Contact them if there is a green change you want to see happen in Psychology. The Psychology faculty green officer is Charlotte Rae.
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